Gulliver's Travels (1939 film)

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Gulliver's Travels
Gulliverstravelsposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Animation directors
Seymour Kneitel
Willard Bowsky
Tom Palmer
Grim Natwick
William Henning
Roland Crandall
Thomas Johnson
Robert Leffingwell
Frank Kelling
Winfield Hoskins
Orestes Calpini
Produced by Max Fleischer
Written by Dan Gordon
Cal Howard
Tedd Pierce
Edmond Seward
Isadore Sparber
Based on
Starring Pinto Colvig
Jack Mercer
Sam Parker
Jessica Dragonette
Lanny Ross
Tedd Pierce
Music by Victor Young
Leo Robin (songs)
Ralph Rainger (songs)
Al Neiburg (songs)
Winston Sharples (songs)
Sammy Timberg (songs)
CinematographyCharles Schettler
Production
company
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • December 22, 1939 (1939-12-22)
Running time
76 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$700,000 [1]
Box office$3.27 million [2]
Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels is a 1939 American cel-animated Technicolor feature film produced by Max Fleischer and directed by Dave Fleischer for Fleischer Studios. Released to cinemas in the United States on December 22, 1939 [3] by Paramount Pictures, the story is a very loose adaptation of Jonathan Swift's 18th century novel of the same name, specifically the first part which tells the story of Lilliput and Blefuscu, and centers around an explorer who helps a small kingdom who declared war after an argument over a wedding song. The film was the Fleischer Studios' first feature-length animated film, as well as the second animated feature film produced by an American studio after Walt Disney Productions' Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs , as Paramount had commissioned the feature in response to the success of that film. The sequences for the film were directed by Seymour Kneitel, Willard Bowsky, Tom Palmer, Grim Natwick, William Henning, Roland Crandall, Thomas Johnson, Robert Leffingwell, Frank Kelling, Winfield Hoskins, and Orestes Calpini.

Contents

Plot

On November 5, 1699, Lemuel Gulliver washes onto the beach of Lilliput after a storm at sea and ultimate shipwreck. Following the calm of the storm, the town crier Gabby stumbles across Gulliver in terror and rushes back to Lilliput to warn King Little of a "giant on the beach". But Little and King Bombo of Blefescu are signing a wedding contract between their children, Princess Glory and Prince David of Blefuscu, respectively. All is fine until an argument starts over which national anthem is to be played at the wedding. The argument cancels the wedding and starts a war.

After several failures, Gabby tells King Little of the "giant", and leads a mob to the beach to capture him. There, the Lilliputians tie Gulliver to a wagon on which they convey him to the capital. In the next morning, Gulliver awakens and breaks himself free; but when they see that the invading Blefuscuians are intimidated by his size, the Lilliputians enlist his help against their neighbor, treating him with hospitality and making him a new set of clothes.

King Bombo, who has sent three spies, Sneak, Snoop, and Snitch, into Lilliput, orders them to kill Gulliver, whereupon the spies steal Gulliver's flintlock pistol, confiscated by the Lilliputians, and prepare to use it against him. Meanwhile, Gulliver learns of the war's cause from Glory and David, and proposes a new song that combines the two proposed by their fathers.

When the spies assure King Bombo that they can kill Gulliver, Bombo announces by carrier pigeon that he will attack at dawn. Gabby intercepts this message and warns the Lilliputians, but is himself captured by the spies and stuffed in a sack, before they prepare the pistol. As the Blefuscuian fleet approaches Lilliput, Gulliver ties them together and draws them disarmed to shore. The spies fire at Gulliver from a cliff, but Prince David diverts the shot and falls to his apparent death. Using David's body to illustrate his point, Gulliver scolds both Lilliput and Blefuscu for fighting; when they solemnize a truce, Gulliver reveals that David is unharmed, whereupon David and Glory sing their combined song for everyone to hear. The spies release Gabby from the sack. Both sides thereafter build a new ship for Gulliver on which he departs, and he sails off into the sunset on the ocean.

Cast

Songs

All of the songs were written by Leo Robin and composed by Ralph Rainger with the exception of "It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day", which was written by Sammy Timberg, Al Neiburg and Winston Sharples.

The Gulliver's Travels score by Victor Young was nominated for a Best Original Score Academy Award while the song "Faithful/Forever" was nominated for Best Original Song, but both of them lost out to The Wizard of Oz with the film winning the latter category for the song "Over the Rainbow". "It's a Hap-Hap-Happy Day" and "All's Well" later became standard themes used for Fleischer and Famous Studios cartoon scores, while "I Hear a Dream" was quite popular as well. [4]

Selections from the music score was released by Marco Polo Records in 1997 as part of "The Classic Film Music of Victor Young" album (alongside selected cues for the 1952 Oscar-winning film The Greatest Show on Earth , The Uninvited and Bright Leaf ). [5]

Covers

[6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

Production

GulliversTravelsFleisherStudios002.jpg
GloryDavidGulliver'stravels.JPG
Gulliver's Travels, 1939.

Max Fleischer had envisioned a feature as early as 1934. But Paramount vetoed the idea based largely on their interests in maintaining financial solvency following their series of bankruptcy reorganizations. However, after the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs , Paramount wanted to duplicate the Disney success and ordered a feature for a 1939 Christmas release. When the story was first written in New York, Popeye the Sailor had originally been cast as Gulliver. This was scrapped, however, and the story was restructured once the West Coast team of Cal Howard, Tedd Pierce, and Edmond Seward came aboard (although Popeye would later be cast as a Gulliver-like character in an abridged version of the story called "Popeye's Travels", made for the 1960s Popeye the Sailor television show).

One of the major challenges for Fleischer Studios was the 18 month delivery envelope, coming at a time when Fleischer Studios was relocating to Miami, Florida. While Snow White was in production for 18 months, it had been in development for just as long, allowing for a total of three years to reach the screen. To meet this deadline, the Fleischer staff was greatly expanded to some 800 employees. Animation training classes were set up with Miami art schools as a conduit for additional workers. Experienced lead animators were lured from Hollywood studios, including Nelson Demorest, Joe D'Igalo, and former Fleischer Animators Grim Natwick, Al Eugster, and Shamus Culhane, who returned after working for the Walt Disney Studios.

Several West Coast techniques were introduced in order to provide better animation and greater personality in the characters. Some animators adapted while others did not. Pencil tests were unheard of in New York but were soon embraced as a tool for improving production methods. And while the majority of the characters were animated through conventional animation techniques, rotoscoping was used to animate Gulliver, Glory, and David. Sam Parker, the voice of Gulliver, also modeled for the live-action reference.

The rushed schedule seemed to take precedence over quality, and overtime was the order of the day. Even with the rush, deadlines were compromised with Paramount considering canceling the film. Relations with the Technicolor lab were strained due to these constant delays largely associated with the remote location of Miami.

Fleischer Studios delivered Gulliver for Paramount's planned Christmas release schedule, opening in New York on December 20, 1939, going into general release two days later. Considering the potential demonstrated in the two Popeye specials, Gulliver’s Travels lacked the built-in brand recognition of those shorts. This much-anticipated feature produced by Max Fleischer was still met with by an eager public and started out well, breaking box-office records in spite of the inevitable comparisons to Snow White.

Based on the overwhelming business success of Gulliver’s Travels in its opening run, Barney Balaban immediately ordered another feature for a 1941 Christmas release. In spite of running over the original budget, Paramount made a profit of at least $1,000,000 domestically. [11]

Vocal talent

The voice cast consisted of a variety of performers. The voice of Gabby was provided by Pinto Colvig, who had previously worked at Disney's. Colvig had previously been the voice of Goofy, provided vocal effects for Pluto, was the stern Practical Pig in The Three Little Pigs , and voiced Grumpy and Sleepy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Jack Mercer, who portrayed King Little of Lilliput, was a story man for Fleischer's who lent his voice the gruff Popeye the Sailor. In addition to voicing King Little, Mercer was also the voice behind Bombo's spies, Sneak, Snoop, and Snitch. Mercer was a regular voice heard in Fleischer and Famous Studios cartoons, and worked for Paramount until Famous Studios was dissolved. Jessica Dragonette and Lanny Ross were both popular singers of the day, and were hired to sing for Princess Glory and Prince David, respectively. Sam Parker was a radio announcer in the 1930s who won the role of Gulliver in a radio contest. When the Fleischers met Parker, they felt that his appearance was suitable for him to also perform in the live action footage that would be rotoscoped to create Gulliver's movement. [12] Tedd Pierce was a story man hired away from Leon Schlesinger Productions to join Fleischer in their trip to Miami. Pierce, who would occasionally do voices for some of the characters in the cartoons, played King Bombo.

Release

Like Snow White before it, Gulliver was a success at the box-office, earning $3.27 million in the United States during its original run, even as it was limited to fifty theaters during the 1939 Christmas season. [13] This box-office success prompted a second feature to be ordered for a Christmas 1941 release Mr. Bug Goes to Town . Following its domestic run, Gulliver's Travels went into foreign release starting in February 1940.

In spite of the profits earned domestically and internationally, Paramount held Fleischer Studios to a $350,000 penalty for going over budget. This was the beginning of the financial difficulties Fleischer Studios encountered as it entered the 1940s.

When the Fleischer film library was sold to television in 1955, Gulliver's Travels was included and became a local television station holiday film shown during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It was also re-released theatrically in Technicolor prints for Saturday matinee children's programs well into the mid 1960s.

Home video releases

Due to the film's public domain status, it has been released by many distributors in various home video formats. E1 Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray Disc on March 10, 2009, but received strong criticism for presenting the movie in a stretched and cropped 1.75:1 format, as well as applying heavy noise reduction. [14] [15] [16] [17] In March 2014, Thunderbean Animation released a superior restored version of the film with several Fleischer Studios shorts in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack titled Fleischer Classics Featuring Gulliver's Travels. [18] [19]

Awards

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards:

Each lost both to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's The Wizard of Oz . [20]

Spin-off cartoons

The film was spun off into two short-lived Fleischer cartoon short series: the Gabby series and the Animated Antics cartoons starring the three spies, Sneak, Snoop and Snitch and Twinkletoes (the carrier pigeon).

See also

Further reading

Related Research Articles

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References